Monday, August 25, 2014

Top 25 Korean Films of All Time

By Pierce Conran

I've thought about doing a list like this for some time but frankly found the task quite daunting. Having seen so many Korean films and there being so many that I love, drawing up a list inevitably meant cutting out a large number of films that I wish could get more recognition. But for our 4th anniversary (it's hard to believe it's been that long) I wanted to do something a little special. It certain did prove to be a difficult task...

I've seen over 1000 Korean films, so a list of 25 constitutes my favorite 2.5%, or thereabouts. I love all of these films but I did enforce one rule when selecting the titles. There are a few directors who might have dominated and robbed spaces from others so I decided that filmmakers could not appear more than twice. This means some very big films do not appear and in fact you may be surprised at some famous names that fail to make the list altogether (though many were close). I think there's a decent spread between older and contemporary titles, as well as commercial and independent. But fear not, as most of the classic films on the list can be streamed for free over on the Korean Film Archive's Youtube channel (with Eng subs).

What I love about Korean cinema is that there's something for everyone. It's a rich national cinema that encompasses an ever-widening net of genres and filmmaking styles. Going through this list you may get a sense of the kind of films I like but I think these are films that most people can enjoy. Please let me know what you think and feel free to share your own lists in the comments!

Scroll through the below links to see my 25 favorite Korean films. As I discover new favorites, I hope to update the list in future:

Intro - 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 
15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Top 10 Lists

Year  2019 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010
2010s (Top 50) - All Time (Top 25)

Genre   Gangster - Revenge


  1. That was excellent.
    Thank you for your hard work Pierce.

  2. Your list is quite good and i like many of them but have you ever seen "The king and the clown" ? It's on my own my top list ^^

  3. One missing title here could be Lee Jung-beom's "The Man from Nowhere" (2010). While admittedly not an art-house piece, this amazingly well put together tightly plotted thriller with gripping emotional content literally blows up the limits of what "craftsmanship" in cinematography is supposed to mean. If somehow you missed it before, get it now -- you are in for a ride!

    1. It's very well put together and I certainly enjoyed it but there was way too much competition for it to make the cut!

  4. Good list, cheers! Still the total omission of Kim Ki-Duk's filmography is absolutely puzzling and inexplicable...

  5. Is there a list where you have listed more titles (about 100 or so , having just 25 movies limits this list so much).

  6. This is a phenomenal, mature list. Still, I couldn't help but agree that some other film omissions were surprising. Surprised that Kim Ki-Duk didn't make it although it's hard to argue with many of the selections and a good number I haven't seen due to availability and my Korean being a little weak.

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  8. The blog is good enough, keep up writing such type of posts.Eva

  9. don't go into the basement or the attic, it won't end up well. In a war picture, never climb to the top of a tree for a better will be shot sort movies by genre

  10. Excellent list! I also put Memories of murder at one of the top Korean movies. Once you watched it, you can't forget it. You entered into the movie with the 2 funny detectives and you will be curious if they will catch the murder one day. I cannot forget the last scene when the kid told the police, the murder have just visit the crime scene few days ago. What a miss!

  11. This is an outstanding , mature list. Still, i could not help but agree that another film omissions were surprising.